Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sierra Club targets CAFOs in Gratiot and Midland counties

One of the large feeding operations in Forest Hill 


On a Sierra Club-sponsored tour of local concentrated animal feeding operations, the one near Forest Hill got some attention.
“That was one of the worst I’ve smelled,” said Joe Maxwell, a Missouri hog farmer, former lieutenant governor and a U.S. Humane Society official.
And he has toured industrial farming sites all over the world.
The tour was part of a “Less=More” program made up of Sierra Club members as well as farmers, food safety organizations, environmental and welfare groups who believe there is “an unfair bias toward factory farms.”
At a short program at the Alma Public Library before the tour Wednesday, Anne Woiwoide, Michigan Sierra Club president, said the group is not making claims of illegal activities. The focus instead is on unfairness.
The group wants to encourage both the state and federal governments not to support what she called “polluting factory farms.”
“These farms are receiving your tax dollar support,” she said.
She cited a dairy farm that’s located in both Gratiot and Midland counties, and which has subsidiary farms.
“From 2001 to 2012, they received $744,941 in federal farm subsidies and tax subsidized loans of $5 million,” according to a written statement from the Sierra Club.
Small farms cannot compete with that kind of financial assistance.
Yet even though the Midland/Gratiot farm received the subsidies, it was fined by two different agencies for about $45,000 related to five separate incidents.
Some of those incidents included discharge of wastes into county drains, improper storage of wastes, and stockpiling of wastes near a road.
It was also pointed out that a CAFO can generate millions of gallons of waste – enough to equal a city of 16,000 people - but the farms, unlike cities, aren’t required to treat the waste. And that waste can include antibiotics, chemicals, pathogens and other contaminants.
In Gratiot and Midland counties there are 24 CAFOs. Since 1996, 14 have been cited for environmental violations.
On the tour, Maxwell said that CAFOs, especially those run by people from out of the country, “deplete the wealth of the community.”
He said that studies have shown that the resources and profits are taken out of the community and that there is a loss of business. He spoke of two neighboring counties. One allowed CAFOs and one did not. The one that did, floundered.
CAFOs began with Tyson Foods and his chickens, he said. Farmers are told to get big or “we won’t buy from you,” he said.
“But there is an alternative,” he said. “Which one is most profitable and sustainable and doesn’t cost the taxpayers?”
Farms can reach of point in size when it is no longer effective, he said.
But women are helping to change things, he said, since 14 percent who run farms are now women. And he cited an example in North Carolina, which included women farmers. They took some tobacco settlement money and began a sustainable agriculture program.
Lynn Henning, an employee of the Sierra Club and environmental prize winner, also provided some insight into the damages done to Michigan’s water.
She looked at the number of animals on each farm - well into the thousands - how much waste is produced and where that waste goes.
She also talked about the amount of water used. At one farm in the Midland/Gratiot group of dairy farms, 122,000 gallons are needed each day.
“There is concern that there are too many wells,” she said.
Too many wells can affect the surface and ground water.
For more information, you may visit
No one from the Gratiot agricultural community was present and one MSU Extension office agent who asked to be included in the tour was denied.
Linda Gittleman may be reached at 989-463-6071, or on Facebook at


Linda Gittleman
Linda Gittleman’s alma mater is Western Michigan University where she majored in speech and English and her hometown is Alma. She’s worked at the Morning Sun's Alma office for more than 20 years. Reach the author at .

Friday, December 13, 2013

When Are Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes "Superbugs?"


Last week, the Environmental Working Group released a report analyzing antibiotic resistance of bacteria detected in supermarket meat. We unearthed data buried deep in the annual report of theNational Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a federal food safety effort run by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This government report is unfamiliar to most readers because it consists of large amounts of raw data and undecipherable jargon. EWG crunched the numbers to make these data accessible to busy readers who don’t have time to parse a dense 82-page, highly technical government tome.  We want to show you what you deserve to know  -- that the increasing presence of antibiotic-resistant microbes on meat is a serious problem for public health.
Our report struck at nerve at FDA.  The agency issued a statement calling it “misleading” and “alarmist.”  You can read our full response here.  Essentially, the FDA argued that antibiotic resistance to only one drug is not that big of a deal because there are still some other antibiotics that could treat bacterial infections – for now.

Monday, December 09, 2013

'In Meat We Trust' Argues We Got The Meat Industry We Asked For

An Unexpected History of Carnivore America
Hardcover, 368 pages 

The meat on your dinner table probably didn't come from a happy little cow that lived a wondrous life out on rolling green hills. It probably also wasn't produced by a robot animal killer hired by an evil cabal of monocle-wearing industrialists.
Truth is, the meat industry is complicated, and it's impossible to understand without a whole lot of context. That's where Maureen Ogle comes in. She's a historian and the author of In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breaking News: Extreme Animal Cruelty Exposed at Tyson Pig Factory Farm

WARNING: This video, shot by the advocacy group Mercy for Animals at a farm in Oklahoma, includes graphic and sometimes bloody scenes. It shows pigs being kicked, hit, and thrown, as well as pigs being slammed into the floor to kill them.
By Anna Schecter, Monica Alba and Lindsay Perez, NBC News

The nation’s largest meat producer says it has terminated its contract with an Oklahoma farm after NBC News showed the company undercover video of workers on the farm kicking, hitting and throwing pigs and slamming piglets into the ground.

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Water Hogs: Smithfield Pork Deal Trades US Water for Waste

From GRACE Communications Foundation

This is the first of three posts about the possible limits to global meat production as resources are strained by growing populations, prosperity and meat consumption. (Part 2 and Part 3.)

Ultimately, the buyout of the world’s biggest pork producer, US-based Smithfield Food, by its giant Chinese counterpart, Shuanghui International, was a foregone conclusion. It was evident by the media’s muted response to both the merger approved by Smithfield shareholders late last month as well as the earlier announcement by the US federal government to grant the deal national security clearance. For China, by far the world’s largest pork market, this eagerly anticipated decision further assures their pork supply, already bolstered by a demand-stabilizing strategic pork reserve. This occurred despite the apprehensive tone of a mid-July Senate hearing in the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry that cast a bit of doubt over this monumental deal, the largest ever Chinese takeover by a US corporation. In the end, doubt was not involved.

Yet the hearing did air numerous important concerns about the transaction. Smithfield CEO, Larry Pope, and others were peppered with questions about the deal’s potential effect on food safety, foreign corporate ownership vis-à-vis American food security, the transfer of intellectual property and technology, the potential of pork price volatility for US consumers and China’s strength in the global food trade. All this is wrapped in the context of China as the biggest meat consumer in absolute terms, where the hunger for meat, and pork in particular, is expected to grow with its huge and rapidly expanding middle class.

But one big question mark that received little attention was implications of this huge merger for American water supplies. More importantly, just how much water does water-stressed China save in the Smithfield deal?

Even if the merger hasn’t been discussed as a massive water transfer, in essence it is, because the water requirements to raise livestock for meat production are enormous with pork one of the highest in the water department, although beef remains king. Consider the global average water footprint for one pound of pork is 576 gallons (while one pound of beef takes 1,799 gallons). Then consider the water inputs necessary for Smithfield in 2012 to process about 27.7 million hogs and package and distribute approximately 3.8 billion pounds of pork. The reason for meat’s tremendous water requirements is cumulative and due to the large quantity of feed consumed by animals over the course of their lifetimes. To cultivate the crops for feed in turn requires tremendous volumes of water.

Yet the water impacts don’t end with what’s coming in.

As sure as the hogs eat the feed they excrete manure, and a lot of it—approximately 1,200 pounds of manure per hog over its time on the “farm.” The manure generated by hogs and livestock is a valuable fertilizer in moderate quantities, yet in the US manure is an immense polluter of water, soil and air. The overabundance of manure stems from the system in which most animals are raised, that being industrialized facilities called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where many thousands of animals are intensively raised. While CAFOs offer certain benefits to a producer’s bottom line, they have negative costs for the health and well-being of the surrounding communities and natural environment. Besides the pollution caused by so much animal waste, other problems abound like disease outbreak risks from overcrowding, overreliance on chemicals and antibiotics (the latter was recently shown to increase antibiotic resistance near hog CAFOs), as well as poor animal welfare, to name a few. (For a full account of CAFOs many downsides, visit GRACE’s Sustainable Table.) In the case of the Shuanghui-Smithfield deal, not only has pork been purchased, but also the technical CAFO know-how.

To be sure, Shanghui and the Chinese government wanted to purchase Smithfield to supplement their pork supplies and improve their production methods, among other advantages. I’m not the first to note that the highest objective might have been to achieve these benefits without the harm to water (and other natural) resources. Rather than have Shuanghui simply ramp up production, the deal allows for China to avoid water withdrawals from dwindling supplies, on the one hand, and avoid water contamination from excessive manure loading, on the other. This is a pressing concern for China since most of its population lives in regions where surface water and groundwater are seriously polluted, plus it might prevent more distressing events like the 6,000 pig carcasses floating in the Huangpu River. At root, the Shuanghui-Smithfield deal cannot merely be viewed as exchange of pork, technology and revenue, but as a trade of water for waste, or, perhaps more aptly, Smithfield sold something that belongs to all of us—unpolluted water supplies.

Smithfield Foods must have recognized the value they provided to Shuanghui even if issues arose stateside. As Andrew Gunther of Animal Welfare Approved wrote in a sharply worded blog post a few months ago:

Despite the ever-growing concern among U.S. consumers about the impact of intensive livestock operations on our health and the local environment, the nation's largest pork producer has sold out to meet the growing Chinese demand for cheap pork—and it is more than happy to pollute our environment and harm our health in doing so.

As meat consumption and production grow in the coming years, such transactions as the Shuanghui-Smithfield must be understood within a much broader scope of natural resource use and abuse, as well as the potential costs and benefits exacted on people, animals and the environment. For all the talk in the Senate hearing, on these three important issues, what spoke the loudest is what went undiscussed.

Want to learn more about the impact of CAFOs? Watch the animated video short and worldwide hit, The Meatrix, which has been translated into 20 languages including Chinese. For more in-depth content, check out Sustainable Table's Industrial Agriculture section.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

‘Ag-gag’ reflex State legislatures are pushing to stifle factory farm investigations

State legislatures are pushing to stifle farm investigations, and some news associations are fighting back

By Deron Lee

FAIRWAY, KS — On Feb. 8, Amy Meyer, a 25-year-old activist, recorded cell-phone video of activities at a slaughterhouse in a Salt Lake City suburb. Eleven days later she was informed, much to her surprise, that she was being prosecuted for a Class B misdemeanor under a new Utah state law prohibiting “agricultural operation interference”—an offense that could mean up to six months in jail.

Bill Niman’s Next Move: The natural-meat pioneer strikes back with a new company



It's late afternnoon in bucolic Bolinas, California, and Bill Niman has indicated that yes, he is willing to talk about his unhappy exit from the company he founded. But he has a lot going on just now. There are 78 heritage turkeys that are cackling, clucking, gobbling, and squawking as they fly into trees, jump up on fences, and generally resist the efforts of Bill and his wife, Nicolette, to herd them into their coop for the night. Meanwhile, over at the cattle barn, a grieving cow needs tending to. The cow recently lost a calf during birth, and Bill and Nicolette have a plan to unite her with another calf that has been rejected by its mother. As for the rest of the herd, it's spread out across Niman's thousand-acre ranch on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

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Avoiding Factory Farm Foods: An Eater's Guide

Nicolette Hahn Niman
Livestock Rancher, Lawyer, and Author, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms

Most people share at least the following traits: they want to be healthy; they like animals; and they value clean air and water. Yet relatively few Americans connect those concerns with their food. As more people start making the link (especially if they've seen graphic video footage of industrial animal operations), many decide it's time to stop eating foods from factory farms. This is a guide for doing just that.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Report links antibiotics at farms to human deaths

Updated 8:34 pm, Friday, September 20, 2013

Washington -- The Centers for Disease Control on Monday confirmed a link between routine use of antibiotics in livestock and growing bacterial resistance that is killing at least 23,000 people a year.
The report is the first by the government to estimate how many people die annually of infections that no longer respond to antibiotics because of overuse in people and animals.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden called for urgent steps to scale back and monitor use, or risk reverting to an era when common bacterial infections of the urinary tract, bloodstream, respiratory system and skin routinely killed and maimed.
"We will soon be in a post-antibiotic era if we're not careful," Frieden said. "For some patients and some microbes, we are already there."
The discovery of penicillin in 1928 transformed medicine. But because bacteria rapidly evolve to resist the drugs, and resistance is encouraged with each use, antibiotics are a limited resource.

2 million infections

Along with the annual fatalities, the report estimated at least 2 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur each year. Frieden said these are "minimal estimates" because they count only microbes that are resistant to multiple antibiotics and include only hospital infections, omitting cases from dialysis centers, nursing homes and other medical settings.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Waste Lagoon At Cattle Feedlot Captured On Satellite Photo

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 
A satellite image showing what appears to be a large waste lagoon attached to commercial cattle feedlot may shock you.
The image, posted to Reddit, seems to be pulled from Google Images. According to the site, the feedlot is Coronado Feeders, located in Dalhart, Tex.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

How Do You Know Someone Is Doing Something Awful? If They Call You A Terrorist For Photographing It.


 Melinda Clark

I don’t know what to find more horrifying — the idea that people still habitually abuse helpless animals, or that this is how parts of our country want to treat the people who try to stop it.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

FDA Finally Admits Chicken Meat Contains Cancer-Causing Arsenic

After years of sweeping the issue under the rug and hoping no one would notice, the FDA has now finally admitted that chicken meat sold in the USA contains arsenic, a cancer-causing toxic chemical that’s fatal in high doses. But the real story is where this arsenic comes from: It’s added to the chicken feed on purpose!

Photo: World Truth TV
Photo: World Truth TV

World Truth TV
July 21, 2013

Even worse, the FDA says its own research shows that the arsenic added to the chicken feed ends up in the chicken meat where it is consumed by humans. So for the last sixty years, American  consumers  who eat conventional chicken  have been swallowing arsenic, a known cancer-causing chemical. (…)

Until this new study, both the  poultry industry  and the FDA denied that arsenic fed to  chickensended up in their  meat.  The fairy-tale excuse story we’ve all been fed for sixty years is that “the arsenic is excreted in the chicken feces.” There’s no scientific basis for making such a claim… it’s just what the poultry industry wanted everybody to believe.

But now the evidence is so undeniable that the manufacturer of the chicken feed product known as Roxarsone has decided to pull the product off the shelves (…). And what’s the name of this manufacturer that has been putting arsenic in the chicken feed for all these years? Pfizer, of course — the very same company that makes vaccines containing chemical adjuvants that are injected into children.

Technically, the company making the Roxarsone chicken feed is a subsidiary of Pfizer, called Alpharma  LLC. Even though Alpharma now has agreed to pull this toxic  feed chemical off the shelves in the United States, it says it won’t necessarily remove it from feed  products  in other countries unless it is forced by regulators to do so. As reported by AP:

Scott Brown of Pfizer Animal Health’s Veterinary Medicine Research and Development division said the company also sells the ingredient in about a dozen other countries. He said Pfizer is reaching out to regulatory authorities in those countries and will decide whether to sell it on an individual basis.” (…)

But even as its arsenic-containing product is pulled off the shelves, the FDA  continues its campaign of denial, claiming arsenic in chickens is at such a low level that it’s still safe to eat. This is even as the FDA says arsenic is a carcinogen, meaning it increases the risk of  cancer.

The National Chicken Councilagrees with the FDA. In a statement issued in response to the news that Roxarsone would be pulled from feed store shelves, it stated, “Chicken is safe to eat” even while admitting arsenic was used in many flocks grown and sold as chicken meat  in the United States.
What’s astonishing about all this is that the FDA tells consumers it’s safe to eat cancer-causing arsenic but it’s dangerous to drink  elderberry   juice! The FDA recently conducted an armed raid in an elderberry juice  manufacturer, accusing it of the “crime” of selling “unapproved drugs.”

(…) Which  drugs  would those be? The elderberry juice, explains the FDA. You see, the elderberry juice magically becomes a “drugs” if you tell people how it can help support good health.

The FDA has also gone after dozens of other  companies  for selling natural herbal products or nutritional products that enhance and support  health. Plus, it’s waging a war on raw milk which it says is dangerous. So now in America, we have a food and drug regulatory agency that says it’s okay to eat arsenic, but dangerous to drink elderberry juice or raw milk.

Eat more poison, in other words, but don’t consume any healing foods. That’s the FDA, killing off Americans one meal at a time while protecting the profits of the very companies that are poisoning us with their deadly ingredients.

Oh, by the way, here’s another sweet little disturbing fact you probably didn’t know about hamburgers and conventional beef  : Chicken litter containing arsenic is fed to cows in factory beef operations.  So the arsenic that’s pooped out by the chickens gets consumed and concentrated in the tissues of cows, which is then ground into hamburger  to be consumed by the clueless masses who don’t even know they’re  eating  second-hand chicken crap. (…)

Monday, July 08, 2013

Study finds health issues with pigs consuming genetically modified foods

Published 25 June, 2013 08:00:00 Living on Earth

pig stomachs A new study linking consumption of genetically modified foods to stomach inflammation and reproductive problems in pigs is being used as fuel in the fight to have GM foods labeled in the United States. More than 20 states are currently considering related legislation.
Different levels of stomach inflammation found (clockwise from top left): nil (from a non-GM-fed pig, number B41), mild (from a non-GM-fed pig, number B15), moderate (from a GM-fed pig, number C34) and severe (from a GM-fed pig, number D22).

A new study by a team based at Flinders and Adelaide universities in Australia has found troubling results relating to the health effects of commonly used hog feed that contains genetically modified corn and soy.

It compared two groups of groups of pigs, one group that was fed commonly used pig feed, which contains genetically modified corn and soy, and another fed food without genetically modified ingredients.

Researchers found a statistically significant increase in severe stomach inflammation; about 2.5 times higher in the pigs that were fed the engineered grains compared to the non-engineered grains. Additionally, the weight of a pig's uterus was 25 percent larger for GM-fed pigs, an issue which can lead to problems with a pig's reproductive or hormonal system, said Michael Hansen, Consumer's Union Senior Staff scientist.

In a statement, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group that represents more than 1,000 biotech companies, called the research "junk science."

"The researchers failed to mention in their conclusion that there are more pigs with inflamed stomachs that had eaten the non-GMO diet," they said. "Such inflammation is common in animals with high feed intake or that has been finely ground.”

But Hansen disagrees.

"It does appear that there is something here. It was a statistically significant effect, it does follow up on previous research. Maybe we should look further." Hansen said.

More than 10 years ago, Jerry Rosman, an Iowa farmer, had pigs whose severe reproductive problems were alleviated once they stopped eating GM products, Hansen said.

That said, the biotech industry has conducted previous studies about GM pig feed that have found results contradictory with the Australian study. Those tests, though, sometimes sampled as few as 10 pigs. Hansen says they also weren't conducted rigorously enough to be taken seriously. Biotech companies often run and fund these studies themselves, potentially giving researchers undue reason to not find issues with GM food, he said.

"The folks that tend to find problems are often getting independent funding. They’re not getting funding from the companies." Hansen added.

The Australian researchers partnered with Iowa pig farmers to conduct their study and published the results in the Australian Journal of Organic Systems.

Moving forward, Hansen said he wants to see the study repeated. At the same time, he would also like to raise awareness about GM consumption in the United States.

"We also need to pass mandatory labeling laws so that people can make decisions for themselves on whether they want to eat these foods," Hansen said.

Connecticut on June 3 became the first state to pass a bill requiring the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients.

“This bill strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers’ right to know what is in their food while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in a statement after the bill was signed.

More than 20 other states are now considering similar legislation.


Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Less=More Coalition Offers Sustainable Livestock Farmers Easy Access to Subsidy Info

Media Contact
: Gail Philbin,, 312-493-2384

Lansing, Mich.— As part of its effort to help level the playing field for sustainable livestock farmers in Michigan, the Less=More Coalition has made available information about taxpayer-funded Farm Bill conservation subsidies in one place online at

“Farmers are busy folks, and sustainable farmers often lack the kind of outreach and support for farm program applications that large-scale industrial farm operators receive,” said Sandy Nordmark, vice president of the Michigan Farmers Union, which is a member of Less=More. “We aim to make it as easy as possible for them to access funding possibilities for their conservation practices by putting all the information they need in one cyber-location.”

Less=More is a sustainable agriculture coalition launched earlier this year to address the inequity of Farm Bill subsidy distribution in Michigan and how the system favors polluting factory farms over safe, sustainable livestock farms at the expense of the environment and public health

The Less=More web link connects farmers with basic information about 2013 Farm Bill subsidies in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in Michigan. It includes a listing of the more than 100 conservation practices funded by EQIP and the amount of money available for each practice as well as the most current EQIP application.

“This information is available on the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Michigan website, but it can be tricky to find if you don’t know where to look,” said Lynn Henning, a Water Sentinel for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, another Less=More coalition member.  “We make it as simple as possible. A farmer can sit down and get an idea of what’s out there for him or her with a click or two of the mouse.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the agency that distributes taxpayer-funded subsidies through a State Conservationist in Michigan, is mandated to distribute 60 percent of the EQIP funds to livestock operations. Currently, most go to support Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms, in Michigan.

Of the 104 EQIP subsidies available in 2013, 53 are practices identified by the NRCS as being applicable to farmers with organic certification, according to Henning. These include such activities as brush management, grassed waterways, fencing and filter strips.

Although about half of the practices are listed as organic, the reality is that the biggest EQIP subsidies go to support practices dealing with waste -- handling, storage, separators, transfer systems and biodigesters -- that are specific to large-scale operations with thousands of animals that generate millions of gallons of manure. For example, a factory farm can apply for and receive more than $43,000 for a solid/liquid waste separation facility, and anaerobic digesters fetch anywhere from roughly $300-$600 per animal unit, which translates to a substantial sum for an operation with thousands of animals.

“Essentially, factory farms take a perfectly good natural material – animal manure — and concentrate it until it becomes an environmental issue and then they receive federal money to address the problem they’ve created,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter director. “Meanwhile, sustainable farmers who work with nature and have appropriate numbers of animals for the amount of land available have little need for funds to address such problems, but they—and consumers--would benefit greatly from receiving more support for their sustainable practices.”

In addition, this taxpayer money doesn’t always solve an operation’s underlying environmental problems, according to a recent report by Less=More, Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape, which demonstrates that many polluting factory farms have continued to receive taxpayer money. The report found that 37 Michigan factory farms cited for environmental violations and unpermitted discharges over the 15 years ending in 2011 were awarded nearly $27 million in various Farm Bill subsidies between 1995 and 2011.  Of these operations, 26 jointly racked up fines and penalties of more than $1.3 million for their share of these violations.

“Taxpayers are providing millions of dollars in government subsidies to industrial mega-farms in Michigan that generate pollution and cause health risks while undermining sustainable farms at the same time,” said Woiwode. “This happens at a time when more and more Michigan consumers are seeking safe, healthy, local sources of meat, dairy, poultry and eggs at farmers markets, stores, restaurants and community supported agriculture.”

Less=More is a coalition of organizations engaged in various aspects of our food system that seek to level the playing field for sustainable farmers by addressing the inequity of how taxpayer subsidies are distributed in Michigan. It includes: Beery Farms of Michigan, LLC, the Center for Food Safety, Crane Dance Farm, LLC, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, Food & Water Watch, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Groundswell Farm, Humane Society of the United States, Michigan Farmers Union, Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy, Michigan Young Farmers Coalition, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.

Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape and other information about Less=More is available at

Friday, May 31, 2013


Less=More seeks to level the playing field for sustainable humane livestock farmers by tackling the way taxpayer subsidies give an unfair advantage to polluting factory farms in Michigan.To learn more about this revolutionary new campaign, visit

Now you can support Less=More with a secure online donation.  Simply click on the link below. 


Thank you!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Volunteers Needed for Less=More Farmers Market Blitz This Summer!

The Less=More Coalition Needs Your Help!

The Less=More Coalition is looking for volunteers to help collect petition signatures at farmers markets around the state this summer. We need help harnessing the voice of concerned consumers like you who want to help even the playing field for sustainable agriculture in Michigan by sending a message to Garry Lee, the Michigan State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to stop using taxpayer subsidies to support polluting factory farms.

Lee has the power to reapportion how Farm Bill subsidies are distributed, and right now, they heavily favor massive animal factories that cram thousands of animals into warehouses and pollute our water and air. (If you haven't already, click here to send him an email.)
If you have an hour or two to spare this summer, spend it at your local farmers market getting signatures for our petition! A small amount of your time can yield big benefits for sustainable farming in Michigan. For details, contact Thank you!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Consumer Reports finds superbugs in turkey

Policy and Action from Consumer Reports
Our new study found more evidence that raising food animals on antibiotics can impact the effectiveness of our life-saving drugs. If you want antibiotics to work when you need them, tell Congress to stop the mass feeding of drugs to animals.
Take action
Consumer Reports’ latest investigation confirms that all those antibiotics being fed to our food animals domatter.
Released today, our study found meat from conventionally raised turkeys – which can be routinely fed antibiotics –had bacteria resistant to more drugs than birds raised without antibiotics. Since one way superbugs can spread to people is through raw meat, it’s crucial you know these findings.
It's important to cook turkey thoroughly, and we have tips to help you avoid antibiotic-raised meat. But just avoiding the problem isn’t the solution. Industrial food producers must stop playing this dangerous game with our life-saving drugs – and a bill has been introduced to do just that!
Eighty percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used by beef, pork and poultry producers so healthy animals can plump up faster and tolerate crowded, unsanitary conditions. This daily use of antibiotics kills off those bacteria vulnerable to drugs, leaving immune ‘superbugs’ to flourish and spread to animals, the environment, and eventually, us.

We’re tackling this problem from every angle. Consumer Reports is testing food for these bacteria, and making sure labels mean what they say so you can shop smart. We’re backing a bill in Congress to end the routine use of antibiotics on food animals. It would preserve our antibiotics by phasing out mass-feeding of drugs to food animals, restricting their use to sick animals.

And we’re on the ground asking Trader Joe's – one of the nation’s most progressive grocers that has already demonstrated care for customers' health on other issues – to lead the way and stop selling meat raised on drugs.
Ask your friends and family to join you in taking action – this is a problem we can fix if we all demand action.
Jean Halloran, Consumers Union
Policy and Action from Consumer Reports

Less=More Provides Subsidy Info for Sustainable Farmers

Less=More is a coalition of advocacy groups, farmers and consumers that supports sustainable agriculture in Michigan. It seeks to level the playing field for sustainable livestock farmers so they can compete with factory farms by tackling inequitable farm subsidies in Michigan.
To this end, the Less=More coalition is making information available to sustainable farmers about Farm Bill subsidies that might be applicable to their needs. Below are links to information about the 2013 EQIP subsidies in Michigan.  For questions, contact
Michigan EQIP General Information ( May 17th deadlines for some)
Listing of all Michigan EQIP Practices Eligible for Funding in 2013
EQIP Application Form

Less support for polluting factory farms means a more sustainable Michigan. For details, visit

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two stories in the news about factory farms that you need to see

Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie--from the NY Times, an article about the runoff from industrial ag that is choking the life out of Lake Erie

Ag Gag': More States Move to Ban Hidden Cameras on Farms

---Mainstream TV news coverage of the vital issue of our right to know what goes on behind barn doors

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie

Algae blooms, like this one in 2011, are threatening Lake Erie.


TOLEDO, Ohio — For those who live and play on the shores of Lake Erie, the spring rains that will begin falling here soon are less a blessing than a portent. They could threaten the very future of the lake itself.

Lake Erie is sick. A thick and growing coat of toxic algae appears each summer, so vast that in 2011 it covered a sixth of its waters, contributing to an expanding dead zone on its bottom, reducing fish populations, fouling beaches and crippling a tourism industry that generates more than $10 billion in revenue annually.

The spring rains reliably predict how serious the summer algae bloom will be: the more frequent and heavy the downpours, the worse the outbreak. And this year the National Weather Service says there is a higher probability than elsewhere of above-normal spring rains along the lake’s west end, where the algae first appear. The private forecaster Accuweather predicts a wetter than usual March and April throughout the region.

It is perhaps the greatest peril the lake has faced since the 1960s, when relentless and unregulated dumping of sewage and industrial pollutants spawned similar algae blooms and earned it the nickname “North America’s Dead Sea.” Erie recovered then, thanks to a multibillion-dollar cleanup by the United States and Canada that became a legendary environmental success story.

But while the sewage and pollutants are vastly reduced, the blooms have returned, bigger than ever.

Once, fisheries and sports anglers pulled five million walleye from the rejuvenated lake every year. Today the catch is roughly one-fifth that, the Environmental Protection Agency says. Commercial fisheries’ smelt catch is three-fifths of past levels. The number of charter fishing companies has dropped 40 percent. Sport fish like walleye and yellow perch are deserting the lake’s center and moving shoreward in search of oxygen and food.

“We’ve seen this lake go from the poster child for pollution problems to the best example in the world of ecosystem recovery. Now it’s headed back again,” said Jeffrey M. Reutter, who directs the Sea Grant College Program at Ohio State University.

The algae problem is hardly isolated. Similar blooms are strangling other lakes in North America and elsewhere, including Lake Winnipeg, one of Canada’s largest, and some bays in Lake Huron.

The algae are fed by phosphorus, the same chemical that American and Canadian authorities spent billions to reduce — for good, they believed — in the 1970s and ‘80s. This time, new farming techniques, climate change and even a change in Lake Erie’s ecosystem make phosphorus pollution more intractable.

Like plants, algae thrive on a phosphorus diet. Decades ago, some 64 million pounds of phosphorus flowed into Lake Erie each year from industrial and sewer outfalls, leaky septic tanks and runoff from fertilized lawns and farms.

The United States and Canadian governments responded by capping household detergent phosphates, reining in factory pollutants and spending $8 billion to upgrade lakeside sewage plants. Phosphorus levels plunged by two thirds, and the algae subsided. But in the mid-1990s, it began creeping back.

“2002 was the last year that we didn’t have much of a bloom,” said Thomas Bridgeman, a professor at the Lake Erie Center at the University of Toledo. “2008, ’09 and ’10 were really bad years for algal blooms.

“And then we got 2011.”

2011 was the wettest spring on record. That summer’s algae bloom, mostly poisonous blue-green algae called Microcystis, sprawled nearly 120 miles, from Toledo to past Cleveland. It produced lake-water concentrations of microcystin, a liver toxin, that were 1,200 times World Health Organization limits, tainting the drinking water for 2.8 million consumers.

Dead algae sink to the lake bed, where bacteria that decompose the algae consume most of the oxygen. In central Lake Erie, a dead zone now covers up to a third of the entire lake bottom in bad years.

“The fact that it’s bigger and longer in duration is a bad thing,” said Peter Richards, a senior research scientist at the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University in Ohio. “Fish that like to live in cold bottom waters have to move up in the thermocline, where it’s too warm for them. They get eaten, and that tends to decrease the growth rates of a lot of the fish.”

Last spring, the rains arrived amid a record drought, and the algae retreated to waters near Toledo. “We had two extremes in two years,” Mr. Bridgeman said. “The lake responded exactly the way we thought it would.”

But no one hopes for a drought. To cut phosphorus levels this time, scientists say, the habits — and the expensive equipment — of 70,000 farmers along the Erie shore must change. Most of the phosphorus that feeds algae these days comes from farmland.

Much of the phosphorus originates near Toledo, where the Maumee River completes a 137-mile journey and empties into the lake’s shallow western basin.

The Maumee watershed is Ohio’s breadbasket, two-thirds farmland, mostly corn and soybeans. Farming there is changing radically, said Steve Davis, a watershed specialist with the United States Agriculture Department’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Plowing is declining; 55 percent of farmland is planted using anti-erosion methods promoted by the Resource Conservation Service, like no-till farming, in which seeds are inserted into small holes in unplowed ground. Fertilizing is now contracted to companies that cast pellets onto the bare ground from trucks, or to “factory farms” that spray liquefied animal waste on their cropland.

Mr. Davis has analyzed his watershed almost to the last cornstalk. Animal waste makes up 14 percent of all fertilizer. The rest is fertilizer pellets, 48 pounds per acre. In past days, most pellets sank into plowed soil and stayed there. Now, rain and snowmelt wash an average 1.1 of those 48 pounds off unplowed soil. Much winds up in the Maumee, then in Lake Erie.

The Maumee supplies only about 5 percent of Erie’s water, but half its phosphorus. And while algae struggle to digest ordinary phosphorus — only about 30 percent gets taken up — fertilizer phosphorus is designed for plants to use instantly.

Two other recent changes make matters still worse.

One is the zebra mussel, a foreign invader that has dominated Erie since its discovery in 1988. Millions of mussels feast on nontoxic green algae, removing competitors to the toxic Microcystis algae and decimating the base of the food chain that supports Erie’s fish. Then in a vicious cycle, mussels excrete the algae’s phosphorus, providing the Microcystis a ready-made meal.

The other is climate change. Only heavy rains wash fertilizer off farmland, and since 1940, Mr. Richards said, heavy spring rainstorms have increased by 13 percent.

The Maumee’s phosphorus can be limited, Mr. Davis says, but only if farmers change their approach. More soil testing and new G.P.S.-guided machinery can ensure that crops receive the minimum fertilizer they need. Other new equipment can put fertilizer in the ground during planting instead of pellets being broadcast in the winter. Leaving land fallow beside streams reduces runoff.

The catch is that fertilizing is already efficient: that wasted 1.1 pounds is but 2 percent of all pellets spread on Maumee-area farms. “When you’re only losing a pound per acre,” Mr. Davis said, “how do you cut it to a half?”